Despite advertising itself as a university that values diversity, equity, and inclusion on official websites and recruitment materials, students of color at Stanford often have a difficult time finding spaces where we actually feel included. Historically, students of color have have experienced violence and racism on this campus, necessitating safer, more inclusive spaces for these students. Recognizing a need for spaces dedicated specifically to center the experiences and healing of students from historically marginalized communities navigating Stanford, students advocated for the Ethnic Community Centers and Ethnic Theme Dorms we have today. The four Ethnic Theme Dorms (Muwekma, Okada, Casa Zapata, and Ujamaa) serve as spaces where students of color know that they will not only be included, but will be celebrated for their diverse backgrounds with an opportunity to engage critically in issues that affect communities of color. Ethnic Theme Associates (ETAs) serve as pillars of the Ethnic Theme Dorms, cultivating a community that engages in academic discourse, dialogue across difference, and the unpacking of political issues with personal ramifications. For us, these conversations are not just abstract academic concepts — they are discussions about, and informed by, our very own lived experiences. Given the normalization of racism and intolerance in today’s political climate, our communities are under attack more than ever, and the very existence of our ETA position and our dorm communities have been questioned and invalidated.
As part of Stanford’s ongoing Long-Range Planning process, the ResX Task Force has been working to develop a series of recommendations for improving residential life that will be presented to Provost Persis Drell at the end of fall quarter.
The Review’s article contains several serious misconceptions about ethnic theme housing at Stanford, and I’d like to present my own perspective from having lived in ethnic theme housing for a year and a half.
The hostility of recent critiques from those who have not chosen to engage with the Zapata community are unproductive and deeply hurtful, as well as neglectful of the unique space that Zapata occupies in our community and on our campus.
Stanford, and other elite institutions, should begin to fully explore the nuances of their affirmative action policies and ultimately frame them in a more appropriate manner.